Make your first fabric toy with expert Heather Valentine's tips
Sewing a rag doll can be a quick craft for kids. Or it can be a painful process involving smeared paint faces, doll-pattern baldness and a handful of other doll-related craft fails. But craft designer, sewing expert and beloved blogger Heather Valentine from The Sewing Loft offers insider tricks for adding charm and personality to your hand-sewn rag doll.
What's the best way to create a sewing pattern for a doll's head and body?
First, I start with a concept sketch and as sketch moves into fabric, I adjust it here and there to work out all the kinks. For me, the biggest challenge dolls present is the best way to finish them off, which means you need to be careful about where you hide your turning and hand-stitching seam so it will not be highly visible or tugged on.
I struggled for the longest time last year with a mermaid. She was beautiful and I really wanted to bury the turning seam along the waistline, but due to her smaller size it was just too difficult to pass all of the fabric through the opening. In the end, the turning seams needed to be along the outside edge of her tail. This meant that my hand stitching needed to be spot on!
Any favorite ways to decorate a rag doll?
I purposefully leave my dolls faceless. I know it sounds strange, but it helps inspire little ones to use their imagination. The doll can be a best friend from school, invisible friend or whatever they dream. With that in mind, I like to focus on the hair style and a small accessory. I think these details add whimsy. Even the boys have a fun hair style.
Any tips for evenly stuffing a rag doll?
One of the best tips I can offer for stuffing a rag doll is to take a hard, tightly bristled paint brush and cut down the bristles to about 1/4”. I know this is going to be hard for some, but trust me on this. Once the bristles are cut, I smash them down to spread them out. They are perfect for grabbing the stuffing and getting it in small places.
What are some common problems when sewing a rag doll?
A very common problem with working small is seams pulling or splitting. When working on smaller pieces it is best to reduce your stitch size. That means increasing your SPI or stitches per inch. I like to have about 14-15 spi. That means that you need to reduce your stitch length on your machine.
Another great tip is to press your seams before turning them. Many people do not think that pressing is important or maybe it is “only to get out the wrinkles.” Well, that could not be further from the truth, pressing your seams actually “locks” your stitches in place and will add strength to your seam. Remember, your seams are a major part of the foundation of each project.